331. Telegram From the Department of State to Multiple Diplomatic and Consular Posts1

18499. Subject: Population in the International Development Strategy.

1. The USG is concerned that discussions and documents regarding the preparation of a new International Development Strategy (IDS) for the Third UN Development Decade2 have to date virtually ignored the issue of population growth. This is of concern given broad international understanding that excessive population growth is a problem which affects every aspect of development, including nutrition, health, environment, natural resources, urbanization, unemployment, and political and social stability. As this will be the basic development strategy document for the 1980’s we believe an appropriate statement on the role of population policies would provide significant reinforcement to national leaders in initiating or upgrading population policies and programs.

2. An international consensus exists that population issues are an inseparable part of the overall problem of development. As stated by World Bank President McNamara at the World Bank Annual Meeting in Belgrade in September,3 excessive population growth is the greatest single obstacle to the economic and social advancement of most of the societies in the developing world. Approximately 65 different nations, representing well over 90 percent of the population of the developing world, currently have some form of policies and programs aimed at limiting population growth and/or promoting family planning, although the effectiveness of such programs varies considerably.

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3. The fundamental interrelationships between population matters and socio-economic development are recognized in the World Population Plan of Action (WPPA) adopted by 136 countries at the World Population Conference at Bucharest in 1974.4 The plan recommends, inter alia, that countries wishing to affect fertility levels give priority to implementing development programs which are likely to affect fertility norms and behavior, including expanded opportunities for women in education and employment, improved infant and child health and improved family income. Moreover, all countries are urged to respect and ensure the basic human right of persons to determine the number and spacing of their children, and to make available advice, information, and the means for limiting births.

4. In 1979, the first five-year review and appraisal of the implementation of the WPPA, carried out by the UN Population Commission, was the basis last May for an ECOSOC resolution (E/RES/1979/32) containing specific recommendations for priority action by governments for national implementation of the WPPA. This resolution also calls upon the IDS Preparatory Committee to include in the new strategy “full recognition of the interrelationships of population factors and social, economic, cultural, and political development, and the need for full and urgent action to deal with population problems.” More recently, the Colombo Declaration of September 1979, adopted by the International Conference of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, called on the UNGA 1980 Special Session to recognize the integration of population and development as a “key issue in the IDS to be adopted for the next decade.”5 It is believed that all G–77 members have participated in one or more of these expressions of international consensus beginning with the Bucharest Conference.

5. Prior to the 4th session of the Prepcom, scheduled for February 11–29, USUN should contact anticipated leading personalities in the G–77 who are concerned with IDS and have or will have a role in IDS negotiations, either within group or in Prepcom. USUN Mission should raise population issue with them and encourage their active support for incorporation of appropriate references to population growth in the new IDS. In addition to paras. 2–4, you may, for a full exposition of the dimensions and policy implications of the population problem, draw [Page 1112] upon “World Population: Silent Explosion”, a special reprint from the State Department Bulletins of October, November and December 1978 which was distributed to all Ambassadors under cover of a personal letter from the Secretary on December 5, 1978.6 A limited number of copies are available in English, French and Spanish. Begin FYI The basis for the U.S. position on the IDS remains the speech given by DAS Hormats for the first session Prepcom for the IDS on April 3, 1979.7 End FYI.

6. G–77 countries which we believe have a particular interest in the issue based on their domestic policies and programs include Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Tunisia. In addition, USUN should encourage OECD country delegations to press importance of issue. Begin FYI Recently, in varying important fora, French President Giscard d’Estaing, German Chancellor Schmidt and Japanese Prime Minister Ohira emphasized the importance of population growth. In essence, their views coincided in calling overpopulation one of the most important concerns facing the world. End FYI. The Chinese and the Turks, habitual intermediaries with the G–77 and interested in population problems, may also be helpful. The above listing is illustrative and should not limit your contacts, as you deem appropriate.

7. Action requested of other addressee posts. Leaders of several developing nations, such as Presidents Lopez Portillo of Mexico, Zia of Bangladesh and Suharto of Indonesia, have recently emphasized the urgent priority of population policies and family planning programs aimed at lowering fertility. The Department would appreciate excerpts from policy statements or speeches by other national leaders on population issues which either demonstrate awareness of the dangers of population growth or which minimize the problem and oppose limiting fertility.

8. In addition, at discretion of Embassy, if a suitable occasion arises with appropriate officials, you may draw on this message to indicate our interest in the subject of population as related to development strategy, inform them of our efforts in New York to work with other delegations on this subject, and seek their cooperation in these efforts.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800038–0838. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Sergeant and Theodore Nelson; cleared by Benedick, Reimer, McNutt, Graham, Jorgenson, Cornelia Bryant, Herz, Van Dusen, IO/IEP, and Ruth Goldberg; approved by Edgar. Sent to USUN, Accra, Addis Ababa, Algiers, Ankara, Bangkok, Beijing, Bogota, Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Caracas, Colombo, Dacca, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Jakarta, Kathmandu, Khartoum, Kigali, Kinshasa, Kuala Lumpur, Lagos, Lima, Manila, Mexico City, Nairobi, New Delhi, Rabat, Rangoon, Santiago, San Salvador, Singapore, Seoul, Tunis, and USINT Havana. Sent for information to the U.S. Mission in Geneva. The Department repeated the telegram to the same addressees and sent it for information to all OECD capitals on February 2. (Ibid.) In telegram 56269 to multiple diplomatic and consular posts, March 1, the Department explained that telegram 18499 had been repeated to all OECD posts for information, as the original telegram had been sent to a “selected list of third world countries,” and requested that the OECD addressee posts provide the same information requested in telegram 18499. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800106–1033)
  2. See footnote 3, Document 328.
  3. See footnote 8, Document 328.
  4. See footnote 6, Document 284.
  5. Parliamentarians from 58 nations met in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 28–September 1, 1979, to review progress made since the 1974 Bucharest Conference. The Colombo Declaration reaffirmed the linkage of population programs to overall national development plans and recommended holding a UN World Population Conference in 1984 to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Bucharest Conference. For additional information concerning the Declaration, see Colombo Declaration on Population and Environment (New York: United Nations Fund for Population Activities, 1979)
  6. See Document 320.
  7. Telegram 1459 from USUN to Paris, April 4, 1979, transmitted the text of Hormats’ remarks and was repeated to the Department and the Mission in Geneva. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790155–0157)